WASHINGTON — A closely-divided Supreme Court on Monday allowed Border Patrol agents to cut through or move razor wire Texas installed on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an effort by the state to prevent illegal border crossings.
The court on a 5-4 vote granted an emergency request filed by the Biden administration, which had argued that Texas was preventing agents from carrying out their duties.
The brief order noted that four conservative members of the nine-justice court would have rejected the government’s request. They were Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The Biden administration says the wire prevents agents from reaching migrants who have already crossed over the border into the U.S.
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican, installed the razor wire near the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass as part of an operation to address illegal immigration that has brought the state into conflict with the Biden administration.
Texas sued after Border Patrol agents cut through some of the razor wire, claiming the agents had trespassed and damaged state property.
A federal judge ruled for the Biden administration, but the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month reversed that decision, saying agents could not cut or move the wire unless there was a medical emergency.
Abbott’s immigration enforcement plan, called Operation Lone Star, includes busing thousands of migrants to Democratic-led cities and arresting migrants on trespassing charges. The state previously placed buoys in the Rio Grande to prevent crossings, prompting the Biden administration to sue. The barrier currently remains in place while litigation continues.
Even while the Biden administration’s application was pending at the Supreme Court, the standoff between the federal government and Texas intensified.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton rebuffed a Biden administration request that the state back off its takeover of a public park at Eagle Pass. This followed an incident in which three people drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande. The Department of Homeland Security said Border Patrol agents were “physically barred” from entering the area during the incident.